EPA Announces Increases to Civil Penalties



On July 1, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published an interim final rule in the Federal Register to increase the amount of civil penalties to be assessed under federal environmental laws. This action was mandated by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015 and its amendments, which requires agencies to review their statutory civil penalties every four years. Previously, EPA has only adjusted penalty levels for inflation once every several years, but the new law requires EPA to apply two new adjustments: (1) an initial “catch-up” adjustment, effective August 1, 2016, and (2) annual adjustments beginning January 15, 2017.

Under the interim final rule, EPA will apply the increased civil penalty amount for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015 and were assessed after August 1, 2016. The increase in civil penalties is wide ranging and will apply to every federal environmental law, including the Clean Air Act; the Clean Water Act; the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act; the Toxic Substances Control Act; the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

It could now be significantly more expensive to violate EPA standards. The civil penalties for violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other statutes will increase by over 50 percent in many cases, and will more than double, or even triple, for others. As an example, under this rule, the new civil penalty maximum per violation under the Clean Air Act is increasing from $320,000 to $356,312. Now, more than ever, it is essential that facilities strive to comply with environmental regulations.

It is important to note that this increase is for civil penalties only; it does not increase fees for licenses, permits, or other regulatory evaluations. Also, this interim final rule does not change EPA’s current civil penalty policies which guide enforcement personnel on how to assess penalties, taking into account case-specific considerations.

Trinity Consultants has been assisting facilities with environmental compliance since our founding in 1974. For more information on how we can assist your facility, please call (800) 229-6655 to reach the Trinity office nearest you. More information on the interim rule and the adjusted penalties can be found in the federal register.